Things to do in South Bank: 12 places to spend the day in London's buzziest neighbourhood

If you're looking for somewhere to while away an afternoon in London, a place to entertain the kids, or you're on the hunt for great food, look no further than London's South Bank

Updated on • Written By Pete Dreyer

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Things to do in South Bank: 12 places to spend the day in London's buzziest neighbourhood

If you're looking for things to do in South Bank, you've come to the right place. If you're whiling away an afternoon in London, entertaining the kids, or you're on the hunt for great food, look no further than London South Bank. This ever-busy stretch of riverside London encompasses a wealth of brilliant restaurants, entertainment venues, bars, museums and more, so you’re never short of things to keep you entertained. Aside from many of the attractions you know, there are also lots of great free things to do in South Bank and great activities for kids that won't cost you a penny!


Running along the south bank of the River Thames (hence the name), South Bank extends from Lambeth Bridge to Blackfriars Bridge, and a walk from one end to another takes you through a considerable amount of fascinating London history as well as some of the capital’s most recognisable landmarks. From the south side of Westminster Bridge, for example, South Bank tourist attractions include the famous Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament in all their gothic architectural glory. You’ll also walk right underneath the London Eye, past the Sea Life London Aquarium and the iconic Southbank Centre, not to mention the National Theatre - one of the UK’s most historic and important art and culture landmarks.

That’s just a slice of everything you’ll find on the South Bank - this area of London stretches down towards Waterloo and Southwark too, including yet more venues and restaurants. We’ve rounded up a host of exciting events taking place at South Bank over the coming months, as well as some of our favourite restaurants and other things to do - all you have to do is scroll down, or click the quick links to go to your section of choice.


Things to do in South Bank

The South Bank is packed with a wealth of fun activities. Sure, there's the obvious stuff - a walk along the riverside, a ride on the London Eye, a show at the National Theatre - but we've picked out a few less obvious South Bank activities you shouldn't miss. 

Visit the Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden

queen elizabeth roof garden in summer

What: A little oasis of calm in central London, the Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden remains one of London’s true hidden gems, despite having been here for many years. Head up to the roof of the Southbank Centre and you’ll find the roof garden, which is open to the public and home to over 200 plants. The views over London are pretty special, making it the perfect spot to take a little break from your day out.
Where: Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX

Walk around the Hayward Gallery

exhibition at the hayward gallery

What: Alongside the National Theatre and Southbank Centre, the Hayward Gallery is an iconic brutalist architecture landmark, with a world-famous contemporary art gallery inside. There are exhibitions throughout the year, including the odd outside exhibition too, and if you get peckish you’ve got the Southbank Centre Food Market a stone’s throw away.
Where: Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX

Climb the Garden Museum Tower

top of the garden museum tower

What: Between the excellent Garden Museum Cafe and the delightful museum itself, the Garden Museum in Lambeth is one of London’s most underappreciated venues. The museum is well worth a visit, especially for keen gardeners. At the very least, you can head here for a beautiful view over London from the top of the 131-step medieval tower, which dates all the way back to 1377.
Where: Garden Museum, 5 Lambeth Palace Road, SE1 7LB

Grab a drink at 12th Knot

inside 12th knot sea containers

What: You’ve strolled the river bank and taken in the sights, and now you’re looking for somewhere plush and fancy to have a drink - we’ve got just the place. Head up to the roof of the iconic Sea Containers building and grab a cocktail (and something to eat if you fancy) at 12th Knot. It’s a prime spot to soak in a sunset.
Where: Sea Containers, 20 Upper Ground, SE1 9PD
Book now: 12th Knot at Sea Containers London

Things to do with kids in South Bank

Keep the little ones fuelled and entertained at these fun, interactive spots, including London's only aquarium, a huge adventure playground, and an Instagrammable graffiti-laden Banksy spot. 

Sea Life London Aquarium

coral at sea life aquarium

What: London Aquarium sits right by the Thames near Westminster Bridge, and houses a staggering spectrum of aquatic life from sharks to jellyfish, penguins, turtles, and hundreds upon hundreds of fish species. There are regular events too, particularly over school holidays, and you can buy an anytime entry ticket in advance so you can rock up and head straight in whenever you like.
Where: Riverside Building, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, SE1 7PB

Explore the Jubilee Gardens adventure playground

jubilee gardens playground

What: If you’ve taken the opportunity to get an ice cream for the kids, chances are they’re charged up and in need of a good run-around. Head on over to Jubilee Gardens and you’ll find an enormous adventure playground where they can let off some steam and you can sit under the gaze of the London Eye.
Where: Belvedere Road, SE1 7PG

Take selfies in the Leake Street Tunnel

graffiti at leake street tunnel

What: If you’ve ever seen pictures of a long, graffiti-strewn tunnel, chances are it’s the Leake Street Tunnel near Waterloo Station. It was Banksy himself that first turned these former railway arches into a modern art exhibition back in 2008, and it’s a great spot for selfies - there are often artists there during the day and you can explore the length of the tunnel and snap a few pics for the ‘gram.
Where: Leake Street, SE1 7NN

Meet Shrek at Shrek’s Adventure

meeting shrek at shrek adventure

What: This fun interactive adventure takes you through a range of locations from the Shrek movies, from Shrek’s Swamp to Farqueaad’s Dungeon and The Muffin Man’s Bakery! You’ll get to interact with all your favourite Shrek characters too, and walk away with some great pictures and memories. You can book multi-attraction tickets for Shrek’s Adventure alongside The London Eye and London Aquarium to save a bit of cash too.
Where: Riverside Building, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, SE1 7PB

Places to eat in South Bank

The South Bank boasts an incredibly diverse range of great restaurants, from iconic, highrise spots with gorgeous views over London to great street food and fantastic, easy-going bistros. You can check out more of the best restaurants in South Bank here. 

OXO Tower Restaurant & Brasserie

busy oxo tower restaurant

What: For dramatic, highrise London dining with incredible views over the city skyline, you won’t find much better than the iconic OXO Tower. The smart, white tablecloth restaurant is more suited to fine dining and occasions, whilst the Brasserie features a more relaxed vibe, live music, and equally stunning vistas.
Where: OXO Tower Wharf, Barge House Street, SE1 9PH
Book now: OXO Tower Restaurant; OXO Tower Brasserie


evening at skylon

What: Skylon is well-known for its panoramic, Thames-facing windows, but this restaurant at Royal Festival Hall doesn’t coast on its looks - the menu is packed full of slick, modern cooking that matches up to the grand interiors. Still, it’s a great choice if you want to eat somewhere impressive.
Where: Royal Festival Hall, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX
Book now: Skylon


lasdun at national theatre

What: A relative newcomer to the South Bank dining scene, Lasdun has arrived with a bang, bringing classic, heart-warming British cooking to the National Theatre. Finding the restaurant is a bit of a challenge but it’s worth the journey - the interiors are a beautiful, minimal tribute to National Theatre architect Denys Lasdun, and the food (from the team behind The Marksman in Hoxton) is superb.
Where: National Theatre Upper Ground, SE1 9PX
Book now: Lasdun


limin south bank

What: Limin brings the spirit (and occasionally the sunshine) of the Caribbean to the South Bank, with vibrant Caribbean food, juicy cocktails and real sand! In the summer, Limin goes full beach club chic, so you can relax with a glass of something cold in hand. The menu has lots of vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and child-friendly options too, making this another great family option.
Where: 56 Upper Ground, SE1 9PP
Book now: Limin

Do you live or work around the South Bank? Maybe you should check out Star Card - South Bank’s loyalty card scheme, which offers some tasty discounts on food and drink, retail, art and culture, and more.

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